In the early 90s, Seal burst onto the English house music scene and quickly became the decade’s most celebrated British soul singer. His music initially had a touch of acid house, but he soon became famous for his unique blend of soul, folk, pop, dance, and rock, captivating audiences first in the U.K., the U.S., and around the world.
Early in his music career, Seal achieved remarkable success. He won an Ivor Novello Award for his debut single and bagged three Grammy Awards not long after. His albums, released sporadically, consistently earned gold and platinum status in different countries.
In this article, discover more about Seal’s life and career.
Early Life and Career
Seal, named Seal Henry Olusegun Olumide Adeola Samuel, was born on February 19, 1963, in London, England, to a Nigerian mother, Adebisi Ogundeji, and an Afro-Brazilian father, Francis Samuel.
His biological parents separated when he was very young, so he spent part of his early years in a foster family before being raised by his father and stepmother. His upbringing wasn’t always easy, particularly because his father, an interior decorator, had a violent temper and abused him physically. He left home after dropping out of school at age 15.
Despite these hardships, Seal showed resilience. He pursued an architectural degree and took on various jobs in London, including electrical engineering and designing leather clothing. In his 20s, Seal was diagnosed with lupus, leading to prominent facial scars that later sparked rumors of Nigerian tribal markings.
Seal retreated from his turbulent and impoverished childhood by playing music. He began performing in small gigs in local bars and pubs. In 1987, he joined the British funk band Push and toured extensively – leading him to perform in countries like India, Thailand, and Japan. His travels didn’t end there; he went on to join a blues band in Thailand and later traveled across India solo. These experiences not only honed his musical skills but also broadened his worldview, undoubtedly influencing his later work.
Rise to Fame
The turning point in his career came when he met producer Adam Tinley, better known as Adamski. Adamski asked him to co-write and sing the disco song “Killer,” which became a massive hit in 1990, dominating radio and club rotations across Britain and Europe. This song also earned him his first Ivor Novello Award. This success propelled him into the public eye and kickstarted his recording career.
This marked the beginning of his stellar rise in the music industry. Record companies clamored to sign this new, exciting talent, setting Seal on the path to becoming a renowned artist.
After having a successful hit, Seal went on to be a recording artist, releasing albums such as:
Eventually, Seal signed a solo deal with ZTT Records, where he created his first album. His eponymous debut album was released in 1991, and it soared on the British charts and went platinum in the United States. It reached number 24 in the U.S. and selli0020ng over three million copies globally.
Produced by Trevor Horn, Seal featured hits like ‘Crazy,’ ‘Future Love Paradise,’ and his rendition of ‘Killer,’ which performed exceptionally well on the charts. The single “Crazy” reached the seventh spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S., marking his entry into international acclaim.
In 1992, Seal achieved a remarkable feat at the Brit Awards in London, winning in three categories: Best British Album (Seal), Best British Video (‘Killer’), and Best British Male. These early achievements set the tone for a career marked by innovation and success.
After the triumph of his debut album, he didn’t rush his follow-up. Instead, he took three years, during which he contributed to the Jimi Hendrix tribute album “Stone Free.”
Seal II (1994)
Seal’s second album, also self-titled and released in 1994, marked another significant milestone in his career. The album was introduced by the American Top 40 hit “Prayer for the Dying,” setting a promising start. Initially, the album performed well, peaking at number 20 and selling a million copies by spring 1995. However, its true breakthrough came about a year after its release, with the inclusion of “Kiss from a Rose” on the “Batman Forever” soundtrack.
“Kiss from a Rose” experienced phenomenal success, becoming a number-one pop single in America and dominating the adult contemporary chart for 12 weeks. This surge in popularity propelled the album to multi-platinum status. Two years after its release, the album had sold over four million copies in the U.S. alone. The song also earned Seal three Grammy Awards for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.
Seal also collaborated with Jeff Beck on this album for a rendition of “Manic Depression.” The song “Don’t Cry” included vocals from the iconic Joni Mitchell.
One of Seal’s most remarkable contributions came in 1996 with the Space Jam soundtrack. He covered the Steve Miller Band’s “Fly Like an Eagle,” which soared in popularity, hitting the Top 10 in both the pop and adult contemporary charts.
Human Being (1998)
His third full-length studio album, Human Being, was released in 1998. This album, however, achieved a different commercial success than his earlier works. It reached number 22 on the Billboard charts, featuring singles like “Human Beings” and “Lost My Faith.”
Following Human Being, there was a significant hiatus in Seal’s album releases, a period marked by the recording and eventual shelving of an album titled “Togetherland,” which Seal himself described as “crap.”
Seal IV (2003)
It wasn’t until 2003 that Seal made a notable comeback with Seal IV. This album placed him back in the Top Ten of the U.K. album chart and achieved his first Top Ten spot in the U.S. The album was well-received, and it included the singles “Love’s Divine” and “Waiting for You.”
System (2007) and other collections
During the gap between his albums, Seal released a couple of interim collections. These included “Best: 1991-2004,” a compilation of his hits, and “Live in Paris,” a live CD/DVD combo.
His personal life also flourished during this period, as he married model Heidi Klum. Klum collaborated with Seal on the song “Wedding Day,” which is featured on his 2007 album System. Peaking at number 35 on the Billboard charts, this album marked a slight shift in Seal’s musical style.
In 2008, he released Soul, an album filled with covers of classic R&B songs by legends like Ben E. King, Curtis Mayfield, and Otis Redding. This project, produced by David Foster, was a hit, achieving gold, platinum, or diamond certifications in eight territories and reaching number 13 in the U.S.
Commitment (2010), Soul 2 (2012)
Seal continued his collaboration with Foster on Commitment, which was released in 2010. This album reached number 31 on the Billboard charts. He then revisited the realm of classic covers with Soul 2 in 2012, bringing back Trevor Horn for the production. Soul 2 was a follow-up set of covers, continuing the theme established in Soul.
2015 saw the release of “7,” his next album of original material. The album, produced once again by Horn, was introduced with singles like the romantic “Every Time I’m With You” and the lively “Life on the Dance Floor.” This album came three years after his divorce from Klum.
Seal’s musical journey further evolved with “Standards” in 2017. Signing with Decca, he worked with producer Nick Patrick at the historic Capitol Studios in Los Angeles. In this album, he tapped into the world of jazz and pop standards, collaborating with seasoned musicians in a studio famous for Frank Sinatra’s recordings.
Charity and Other Work
Besides his music career, Seal was a familiar face on television, particularly as a judge on Australia’s The Voice for several years, from 2012 to 2017. He also tried his hand as a contestant on The Masked Singer in 2019.
Seal’s charity work includes some memorable performances for great causes. In April 1992, he participated in The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert at Wembley Stadium, honoring the late Queen frontman. Seal’s rendition of Queen’s “Who Wants to Live Forever” was a standout moment and was described as “spine-tingling,” moving the audience close to tears. He also joined in the all-star finale of “We Are the Champions” – a truly iconic event in music history.
In March 2012, Seal performed at a charity event organized by Brad Pitt’s Night to Make It Right Foundation. This event, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres and featuring stars like Kanye West, Soul Rebels Brass Band, and Snoop Dogg, was held in New Orleans. The aim was to raise funds to build homes for Hurricane Katrina victims.
Seal’s distinct facial scarring, which became a part of his signature look, is caused by a type of lupus called discoid lupus erythematosus. This condition affects the skin and can leave large scars.
Seal’s brother, Jeymes Samuel, also known as The Bullitts, has made a name for himself as a singer-songwriter in the music industry.
Seal and Heidi Klum’s relationship began in 2004, and Seal was present for the birth of Klum’s daughter, Leni, from a previous relationship. He has been a significant father figure in Leni’s life, officially adopting her in 2009. In 2009, Heidi took his surname, Samuel. Seal and Klum also have three other children together.
During their marriage, Seal and Klum renewed their vows every year on their anniversary with family and close friends. Klum publicly praised Seal for his great parenting skills and also remarked how lucky she was to have Seal as her husband.
However, their marriage still led to an end. After seven years of marriage, the couple announced they were separating in January 2012. Klum filed for divorce from Seal in April 2012, citing irreconcilable differences. In their statement, they admitted that they grew apart and their separation was an amicable process, with the well-being of their children as their top priority. Their divorce was finalized in October 2014.
Seal’s music spans various genres, including soul, pop, and R&B. His unique, deep, and husky voice has become instantly recognizable. Seal is a multi-award-winning artist, bagging several Grammy Awards – particularly for his biggest hit, “Kiss from a Rose.”
One of the most striking aspects of Seal’s influence is his ability to fuse different genres. His music weaves together elements of soul, R&B, pop, dance, and rock – making his music appealing to a wide range of listeners. It’s this fusion that has made songs like “Kiss from a Rose” and “Crazy” timeless classics.
But Seal’s impact in the music industry extends far beyond his impressive list of hits and awards. It is felt in the way he seamlessly blends various musical styles, his unique voice, and his compelling personal story. His tumultuous childhood, including his struggles with lupus that caused his facial scars, added a layer of authenticity and resilience to his artistry.
His international success helped bring other artists like him with diverse backgrounds to mainstream attention. He’s a prominent Black artist representing different cultures in mainstream music.
Seal is not just a musician; he’s a storyteller whose songs convey deep emotions and an artist who blends genres effortlessly. His continued relevance in the music industry proves that he’s got extraordinary talent and his music has universal appeal.